Rising in the shadow of the Lowther Hills, the country’s third longest river winds through rolling Lanarkshire farmland and past historic market towns on its way to the fertile Clyde Valley and the former industrial heartland of Scotland before it reaches the city of Glasgow and the Firth of Clyde.
From source to sea, the River Clyde passes through some of Southern Scotland’s finest scenery. There is no better way to discover the wildlife, architecture and hisory of this area of Scotland than to walk. Whatever your ability – walking at high or low level, following tough terrain or level paths – the 25 routes in this guide offer something for everyone.
160 pages / 105mm x 148mm
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Rivers have been at the centre of Scottish life for thousands of years. For the earliest settlers a river meant survival – a source of food, drinking water and transport. Over the centuries villages, towns and all of Scotland’s cities have grown and developed along the banks of a river. From the Industrial Revolution, when Scotland was one of the manufacturing powerhouses of Europe, until the long decline of heavy industry in the 20th century, rivers were integral to Scotland’s economic development. As towns and cities attempt to reinvent themselves in the wake of that decline, rivers are crucial to regeneration, providing key destinations for residential developments, offices, leisure and recreation. Water activities such as rowing, sailing, kayaking, canyoning and fishing are increasingly popular, and wildlife is making a comeback as the environment begins to recover from pollution.
From source to sea, a river passes through a variety of landscapes – from mountains to hills, towns to cities, countryside to concrete – and the best way to discover the scenery, wildlife, architecture and history is to walk. The increasing number of paths and walkways along riverbanks present plenty of opportunities to explore. Whatever your ability – walking at high or low level, following tough terrain or a simple route – this walking guide offers something for everyone.
The River Clyde
The 25 routes in this book have been chosen to illustrate the varied landscapes, and thus the diversity of walking, to be found on and near the banks of the River Clyde as it travels from source to sea. Many of these routes are circular to take in the best of the scenery in the area around each stage of the river's journey and to explore some of the most interesting towns and villages that have sprung up along its banks. The walks also highlight the wildlife, architecture and history to be found along the way. For many people, the Clyde still evokes an image of a river dominated by shipbuilding and heavy industry.
But choose any of the walks over the Lowther Hills, Culter Fell or the Kilpatrick Hills, follow a route within the woodland of the Clyde Valley or head into the countryside of Upper Clydesdale, and
any notion of the River Clyde as an industrial waterway will soon be dispelled.Select any of the routes around Glasgow, Renfrew, Dumbarton or Hamilton, meanwhile, and you will discover surprising urban beauty.
In the beginning
Surrounded by the Lowther Hills near the Dumfries and Galloway/South Lanarkshire border, the River Clyde is born at the confluence of the Potrail and Daer Waters, a little north of the scattering of housesat Watermeetings. Clydes Burn joins slightly further upstream and it is generally accepted that this modest burn bestows its name upon its bigger cousin. The word Clyde comes from the Cumbric Clouta, which loosely translates as ‘The Cleansing One’.
The River Clyde is the third longest river in Scotland and the ninth longest in Britain. More than 100 miles long, it stretches through South Lanarkshire, Glasgow, Dumbartonshire, Inverclyde and Argyll & Bute. It runs past the historic market towns of Biggar and Lanark, flows between Hamilton and Motherwell – the former steel capital of Scotland – through Blantyre, past Uddingston, through Rutherglen and Dalmarnock before reaching its upper tidal limit near Glasgow Green. From here it progresses through Glasgow until it widens and deepens at Dumbarton and Port Glasgow, before flowing into the Firth of Clyde at Greenock and Helensburgh.
Throughout its journey, the River Clyde is surrounded by some of southern Scotland’s finest scenery. It cascades down waterfalls and snakes through beautiful woodland and fertile agricultural land. An abundance of flora and fauna reside along the entire length of the River Clyde: deer, otter, kestrel, peregrine falcon, skylark, cormorant, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies, wood anemone and greater stitchwort to name only a few.
Exploration of the River Clyde and its environs began when hunter-gatherers first followed it in search of food rather than building permanent settlements. There are traces of Neolithic habitation in the area, and in the Iron Age the hills around the Clyde provided an ideal location for building forts, whilst the river also offered a means of getting around. When the Romans first found their way into Scotland in 80AD, they crossed the River Clyde at Elvanfoot in South Lanarkshire. They went on to build roads, camps and a fort at Crawford. Along the Clyde another fort was built on Arbory Hill, Tinto Hill was used as a signal station and the remains of Bothwellhaugh Roman Fort and a Roman Bath House can still be seen today in Strathclyde Country Park. The Romans’ greatest legacy in Scotland was the Antonine Wall, which marked the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. The western end lies at the base of the Kilpatrick Hills near to Old Kilpatrick, on the banks of the River Clyde.
The working river
Sea trout and salmon fishing in the Clyde began around the 12th century and it is thought shipbuilding commenced as early as the 15th century. During the Middle Ages, major settlements such as Dumbarton, Lanark and Glasgow started to flourish. Strategic strongholds such as Bothwell Castle and Craignethan Castle were built during this period, and the river’s most famous fort, Dumbarton Castle, dates from the 13th century. With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, water as a source of power was key to the location of the mills and factories that sprang up along the Clyde. Mills were established at Biggar, Blantyre and Hyndford, and most famously at New Lanark. Coalmining, engineering and iron- and steel-making also began to prosper. As trading routes were opened up, Glasgow found itself well positioned due to its location as a port facing the Americas. However, the Clyde was too shallow to accommodate large ocean-going ships, and cargo had to be transferred at Greenock or Port Glasgow. With the rapid expansion of trade in tobacco and sugar, pressure from the merchants – the Tobacco Lords – to deepen the river increased. During the early 18th century, some of the finest engineers of the time, including John Smeaton, Thomas Telford and John Golborne, devised ways of deepening the Clyde.
This project, known as Lang Dyke, ensured that larger ships could navigate the river and dock in the Broomielaw in the centre of the city. Dredging the Clyde continued, which enabled an expansion of international trade. When shipbuilding replaced trade as the major source of industry, shipyards were established at Govan, Renfrew, Clydebank, Dumbarton, Port Glasgow and Greenock. Yards including Denny’s, Fairfield, Yarrow and John Brown were recognised the world over. More than 25,000 ships have been built on the Clyde, including the Cutty Sark, the Queen Mary, the QE2 and HMY Britannia. The Waverley, the world’s last ocean-going paddle steamer, remains on the Clyde today. The term ‘Clydebuilt’ was synonymous with quality and productivity, and at its peak more than 100,000 people were employed in shipbuilding on the Clyde. The Great Depression in the 1930s saw the beginning of the irreversible decline of heavy industry along the River Clyde, and there are only a few shipyards operating today. The Stobcross Crane, popularly known as the Finnieston Crane, and the Titan Crane in Clydebank (now a tourist attraction) are landmarks of the industry that shaped much of the Clyde.
The river today
Glasgow has been forced to reinvent itself as industry and technology have developed, and the Clyde continues to play its part. In recent years established media institutions including the BBC and STV have relocated to the banks of the Clyde, residing alongside popular leisure destinations including the Science Centre, the Riverside Museum and the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.
With the decline of heavy industry the river is now much cleaner. Salmon, grayling and trout are back in abundance. Tourism plays an increasingly important role and trips ‘doon the watter’ aboard the Waverley paddle steamer remain a favourite. It’s even possible to take a trip on the seaplane. And then, of course, there’s always walking. Much of the river can be walked using the excellent Clyde Walkway and by walking the 25 routes detailed within this volume you can discover not only the river’s incredible industrial heritage, but also the sheer beauty and surprising diversity to be found along its entire 106 miles.
How to use this guide
The routes in this guidebook run from the Lowther Hills, where the Clyde's journey begins, to the Firth of Clyde where it empties into the sea. Wherever possible, the start/finish for each walk is easily accessible by public transport and, if not, there is car parking nearby. The majority of the walks are also easily reached from the villages and towns along the length of the River Clyde, with access to shops, places to eat, accommodation and public toilets.
Each route begins with an introduction detailing the terrain walked, the start/finish point (and relevant grid reference), the distance covered, average time to walk the route and the relevant Ordnance Survey (OS) map. Public transport information is also detailed, although this may change from time to time and should be checked before commencing any of the walks in this guide (travelinescotland.com).
A sketch map shows the main topographical details of the area and the route. The map is intended only to give the reader an idea of the terrain, and should not be followed for navigation – the relevant OS map should always be used for this purpose. Every route has an estimated round-trip time. This is for rough guidance only and should help in planning, especially when daylight hours are limited. In winter or after heavy rain, extra time should also be added for difficult conditions underfoot.
Risks and how to avoid them
A few of the routes in this guidebook are challenging hillwalks whilst others cover more remote terrain. The weather in Scotland can change suddenly, reducing visibility to only a few yards. Winter walking brings distinct challenges, particularly the limited daylight hours and the temperature – over higher ground, temperatures can fall well below freezing. Please take this into consideration before commencing any of the hillwalks in this guide. Preparation for these walks should begin well before you set out, and your choice of route should reflect your fitness, the conditions underfoot and the regional weather forecasts.
Even in summer, warm waterproof clothing is advisable, and comfortable, supportive footwear with good grips is a must. Don’t underestimate how much food and water you need and remember to take any medication required, including reserves in case of illness or delay. Do not rely on receiving a mobile phone signal when out walking the hills or in remote areas.
It is a good idea to leave a route description with a friend or relative in case of emergency. If walking as part of a group, make sure your companions are aware of any medical conditions and how to deal with problems that may occur. There is a route for almost all levels of fitness in this guide, but it is important to know your limitations. Even for an experienced walker, cold, aches and pains can turn an easy walk into an ordeal. Those routes that venture into the hills or rough terrain assume some knowledge of navigation with map and compass, though these skills are not difficult to learn. Use of Global Positioning System (GPS) is becoming more common; however, while GPS can help pinpoint your location on the map in zero visibility, it cannot tell you where to go next and, like a mobile phone, should not be relied upon.
Until the Land Reform (Scotland) Act was introduced in 2003, the ‘right to roam’ in Scotland was a result of continued negotiations between government bodies, interest groups and landowners. In many respects, the Act simply reinforces the strong tradition of public access to the countryside of Scotland for recreational purposes. However, a key difference is that under the Act the right of access depends on whether it is exercised responsibly. Landowners also have an obligation not to unreasonably prevent or deter those seeking access. The responsibilities of the public and land managers are set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (outdooraccess-scotland.com).
The walks within this guidebook cross land that is only fully accessible due to the co-operation of landowners, local councils and residents. Some of the routes pass through farms, golf courses or streets, and near homes and gardens.Cyclists and horse riders often use the paths and tracks, and anglers and canoeists may use the river and riverbank. Consideration for others should be taken into account at all times and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code must be followed.At certain times of year special restrictions are implemented at low level and on the hills, and should be respected. These often concern farming, shooting and forest activities: if you are in any doubt ask. Signs are usually posted at popular access points with details: there should be no presumption of a right of access to all places at all times.
The right of access does not extend to the use of motor vehicles on private or estate roads.